HANOVER, N.J. – Put it down as a good start for New York Red Bulls midfielder Sal Zizzo, who cracked the Starting XI for the first time on March 22 in a 2-0 win over D.C. United.
With all deference to the incomparable Jay-Z: “S to the Zizzo.”
Zizzo, who came into this season with 89 matches of MLS experience since signing with the league in 2010, brings versatility in the midfield as well as being able to play along the backline in a pinch. On Sunday, he manned the left wing and put in a tough shift, tracking back and doing a lot of pressing in the final-third.
In many ways, Zizzo is a tremendous fit for what head coach Jesse Marsch wants to do. Marsch wants wide players who press and Zizzo's mentality is a good fit for this. And Zizzo clearly has an 'Empire State of Mind' when it comes to acclimating to this new role on his new team.
“It felt good. It wasn't anything I'm not used to doing. The last couple of years, the teams I've been on are pressing kind of teams. Maybe instead of always pressing the outside backs it's more the centerbacks and staying more tucked in, even when we win the ball,” Zizzo told Metro on Wednesday.
“I like it. It's a little different but I like it.”
The role, he says, is a bit more nuanced than what he's been asked to do in the past. Not only is he pinching in more and working to create pressure against the central defense, offensively he's being asked to get more engaged.
Certainly 'Can't Knock the Hustle' for his effort, at least in his first start since being acquired by the Red Bulls this season.
Marsch wants him involved more and this means not just hanging out as much on the wing but drifting to a more central role in the midfield to provide support.
“Always pinching in more. It's something he talked about in preseason, start of the season. I was always the player who hangs out wide a lot, let the game come to me,” Zizzo said. “[Marsch] kind of wants me tucking in defensively and that allows us when we win the ball to be in a better position when we win the ball.”
It may be too soon to say that based off of one performance that Zizzo will 'Run This Town.' But as he continues to gel with his teammates, Marsch and company have to be hoping that he will give opposing defenses '99 Problems.'
And that is certainly not a 'Hard Knock Life,' unless of course if you're the other team.